Name: Jessie Austrian
Show: The Importance of Being Earnest
Character: Gwendolen Fairfax
Q & A:
Q: Where are you from?
A: Old Greenwich, CT
Q: What was your first acting gig?
A: Well, when I was 4 years old I was obsessed with a live-action TV series that Shelly Duvall produced called “Fairy Tale Theater.” And we had just acquired our first home video recorder... so naturally I insisted that my family help me make my own film version of "Little Red Riding Hood", produced by and starring me. The beginning of the end...
Q: What is it like stepping into a role with a company that has already been performing?
A: It's been awesome! I've understudied in the past, and I think being a replacement uses some of those same skills, you just kind of have to dive in head-first. In this case it wasn't scary because I had such an amazing and supportive cast ready to catch me. Plus I like the thrill of jumping. The best part was that, although I was a replacement, I didn't feel like I had to make myself fit into any existing mold. From the very beginning Brian and the whole company were generous about letting me have my own process and make Gwendolyn very much my own.
Q: Do you have a favorite moment from the show?
A: It's impossible to pick just one...but in Act III Gwendolyn listens and watches for a long time, and watching Brian Bedford and the rest of the cast act their pants off every night is a masterclass and a truly delightful treat.
Q: If you could portray anyone, living or dead, on stage who would it be and why?
A: Shakespeare? Though really I just want to go back in time and have a beer with him rather than portray him...I'm sure I couldn't do him justice anyway.
Q: When you’re not on stage…
A: I'm running my theater company, Fiasco Theater. Or I'm doing yoga, or spending hours watching videos of baby animals on cuteoverload.com, or doing the crossword at home in Brooklyn with my amazing fiancé and our two cats.
Q: If you weren’t an actor, what do you think you’d be doing?
A: Speech therapy. I'm fascinated by language and the brain.
Q: Any words of wisdom to aspiring performers?
A: Patience is Everything.
And: Don't forget to pay attention to your life. We are lucky that we're passionate about our careers, but let it be your career and not your life. Cultivate your relationships and interests outside of theater so you have other outlets and other support systems. This is difficult when you're auditioning and working long shifts at a day job but I think it's really important, otherwise you'll probably go insane. It's also important because it means you know who you are. And you can only audition well if you walk into a room being you, rather than being who you think they want you to be. It's not possible to be who you think they want you to be, so be you, you're much more interesting, trust me.
Catch Jessie as Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest in its final week at the American Airlines Theatre.
2010-2011 Season, Star Spotlight, The Importance of Being Earnest